THE LOSS IN PITTSBURGH TRUMPS THEM ALLBy Ohm Youngmisuk
A day after their second consecutive AFC Championship Game loss, the Jets were still hurting. Bad.
This loss to the Steelers was infinitely more painful than the one to the Colts the year before. As one player explained while packing his belongings on Monday, the Jets were thrilled to be in the conference title game last year.
With a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach still learning their way through postseason football, the Jets were happy to have gotten as far as they did.
This year, however, they arrived in Pittsburgh fully expecting to win it and advance to their first Super Bowl in 42 years. After knocking out Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks, the Jets believed this was their year. They certainly had talked all year about how this was going to be their year. But they believed they were destined to win it after eliminating Manning and Brady.
And that is what makes this AFC Championship Game loss to the Steelers more painful and heartbreaking than previous conference title losses to the Broncos in 1999 and the Colts last year.
This team was built to win it all. The Jets added the likes of LaDainian Tomlinson, Antonio Cromartie and Jason Taylor to win a championship. They had a terrific blend of young rising talent and wise veteran experience. They had talent all over the field, and Mark Sanchez was playing better than a second-year quarterback should on the road against elite Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks like Manning and Brady.
And when you make it back one year after losing it, you'd better win.
Now, uncertainty looms as the Jets likely can't afford to bring back the same cast while others may retire. If the Jets thought beating Manning and Brady was Mission Impossible, try getting back to a third straight conference championship game. Defending Super Bowl champions have a hard time making it back that deep into the playoffs.
It's no wonder why so many Jets are still hurting after suffering the most painful of their recent AFC Championship Game losses.
NOTHING COMPARES TO THE DENVER DEBACLEBy Rich Cimini
The New York Jets were crushed by their loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but in terms of the devastation factor, it doesn't compare to 1998. Of their last three defeats in the AFC Championship Game, the worst (i.e. most painful) was the 23-10 loss in Denver in January, 1999.
For me, the most vivid image of that day is an ashen Bill Parcells, sitting in the front seat of the team bus, staring blankly at the stat sheet. He knew he had the team to go all the way, but the old coach also knew his team had blown a precious opportunity.
Unlike last Sunday's loss in Pittsburgh, the Jets controlled Denver into third quarter, taking a 10-0 lead. They were one, maybe two scores away from delivering the knockout punch. Just recently, Parcells told Ian O'Connor of ESPNNewYork.com it was the toughest defeat of his career. Never again would he come that close to a Super Bowl.
It hurt so much because the Jets had something special. They were peaking at the right time; they had a smart, veteran team; they had a hot Vinny Testaverde at quarterback; they had Keyshawn Johnson, Curtis Martin and Wayne Chrebet in their prime; and they had one of the best coaching staffs ever assembled.
That they would've faced the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl, a team they beat by 25 points in the regular season, only added to the misery of what might have been. What unfolded the following year also magnified the lost opportunity. If the Jets had any chance of making another run, it was ruined on opening day, 1999, when Testaverde ruptured his Achilles' tendon. The Jets were done, and so was Parcells, who quit at the end of the season.
The words of veteran linebacker Mo Lewis come to mind when thinking of that loss in Denver. In a silent, postgame locker room, he said, "I hope the young guys understand what we had today. This is an experience they'll probably never see again."
A few players would go on to win Super Bowl rings with other teams, including linebacker James Farrior, a stalwart on the current Pittsburgh defense. What goes around ...
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